CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – GROUP B Barcelona 4 – 0 PSV Eindho…

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi has scored eight free-kicks in 2018

Lionel Messi scored his 48th career hat-trick as Barcelona thrashed Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven in their opening Champions League group game.

Barca’s captain curled home a stunning free-kick to open the scoring before Luis Suarez’s clever 20-yard lob hit the crossbar.

The impressive Ousmane Dembele spun to lose two defenders and blasted home Barcelona’s second from outside the box.

Messi half-volleyed Ivan Rakitic’s aerial pass home for their third before Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti was sent off for two yellow cards.

The 10 men got a fourth goal when Suarez picked out Messi, who guided the ball past goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet from 15 yards.

Electric Messi on top form

Messi, now Barcelona’s captain after Andres Iniesta’s departure, looks to have put another disappointing World Cup behind him – he scored once as Argentina lost in the last 16 in Russia.

He has now scored seven goals in six games this season, as well as going close with another free-kick in the second half and creating good chances for Suarez and Roberto.

All his goals were excellent. First he whipped in his eighth free-kick of 2018 – right into the top corner beyond Zoet’s reach from 20 yards. He sweetly struck home Rakitic’s lofted ball and late on met Suarez’s pass to add a third.

He has now scored 104 goals – including eight hat-tricks – in the competition and has netted in a 14th consecutive Champions League campaign, a joint record with Real Madrid legend Raul.

Is this Barcelona’s year?

Barcelona have been knocked out at the quarter-final stage for three consecutive years – with Real Madrid winning the tournament in each of those campaigns.

Barca players have spoken this summer about how much the Champions League means to them as they bid to win it for the first time since 2015.

Last season’s Spanish double winners looked sharp against a side who had won their previous seven games and scored 13 goals in the past two – although PSV were better than the 4-0 scoreline suggests.

With starts for nine of the 11 players who capitulated to Roma last season, Barca began the game strongly and Philippe Coutinho, on his Champions League debut for the club, headed over from Suarez’s cross.

Zoet made good saves to deny Sergi Roberto and Coutinho.

PSV put up a good fight – Steven Bergwijn curled just wide from outside the box, Gaston Pereiro shot over, Mexican World Cup star Hirving Lozano missed chances and Angelino forced a Marc-Andre ter Stegen save with a 30-yard drive.

It was only 1-0 until the 74th minute before the game got away from PSV, who lose for the first time in 90 minutes under new manager Mark van Bommel, the former Barcelona midfielder.

History for Messi – match stats

  • Barcelona have won 25 of their last 27 Champions League games at the Nou Camp, drawing the other two. Their last defeat there was in May 2013 against Bayern Munich (3-0).
  • PSV Eindhoven have not won any of their last nine matches in the Champions League (D4 L5).
  • Messi has scored against 30 different Champions League sides – only Raul (33) and Cristiano Ronaldo (32) have scored against more different opponents.
  • He has scored eight direct free-kicks in 2018 – the most he has netted in a calendar year.
  • The Argentine has scored more hat-tricks than any other player in European Cup history (8). He has scored 42 trebles for Barcelona and six for Argentina.

What’s next?

Barcelona visit Wembley to face Tottenham in the next round of games, with PSV hosting Inter Milan – both on Wednesday, 3 October (20:00 BST).

But next up for Barcelona is a Catalan derby with Girona on Sunday (19:45 BST). PSV host Eredivisie rivals Ajax earlier that day (15:45 BST).

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